Minor in Possession

Savannah Dix and Julia Mogerman

She knew it was possible, but she didn’t think it would happen to her. The slight fear she had was not enough stop her from doing what she wanted.

But reality caught up with her. This past summer, Taylor Williams* got an MIP.

MIP, or Minor in Possession, is a term commonly tossed around the halls of high schools and sporadically thrown into conversations. A first offense of an MIP usually consists of a court date, a fine, and a required alcohol education class. Although it’s associated with fines, irritation, and embarrassment, it is rarely enough to change a minor’s decision of whether or not to drink.

Kevin Davis, Community High School’s Community Assistant, blames the lack of severity. “They’re not strict enough,” he said. He believes that more serious penalties, such as a suspended license, would force students to think twice. Although he’s aware of the impossibility, he also thinks public humiliation would really stop a greater amount of kids from drinking. “What I would love to see is kid’s faces in the paper,” he said. “The key is embarrassment.”

After her first offense, Taylor disagrees. “I think they’re too harsh… I think it should be more severe in terms of drunk driving, but you shouldn’t have to pay money when you’re just an innocent kid drinking in a house.”

The series of events following Taylor’s MIP were typical. A few weeks after the night she was caught, a letter addressed to her arrived at her house. It included a number to call for her court date. “Court was nerve-wracking,” she said. “I had to stand up there in front of a judge and everything.” She pleaded guilty and paid a $250 fine. She was also required to attend the standard one-day alcohol class a few months after court, which she regarded as more of a joke than educational. “It was supposed to be all day, like seven hours. They let us out three hours early.

On top of everything else, Taylor was put on probation. If she stayed out of trouble for the next six months, the MIP would be expunged from her record. This February, Taylor’s record was wiped clean.

Taylor’s MIP was an inconvenience, but it hasn’t exactly changed her actions. Her habits have remained the same, although she does note a change in her anxiety. “It made me a lot more nervous,” she said. “I try to stay out of sketchy situations.”

Diane Grant, a CHS guidance counselor, can understand the lack of a response to the threat of an MIP or even the experience of getting one. “It elevates the issue and the outcome depends on the specific officer’s enforcement of the system.” She doesn’t feel that MIPs actually make underage students drink less, “Because that’s not what they’re thinking about.”

Taylor doesn’t think the law will ever influence her drinking habits any more than it does now. She avoids drinking and driving due to fear of a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) due to its more severe consequences, but does not see herself discontinuing her underage drinking. “As long as it’s fun, I won’t stop.”

*Name has been changed to protect identity